August 1, 2017
As we move further into the 21st century, society is becoming more and more reliant on technology. Everything from transportation to telecommunication is now controlled by some type of software. Behind all that software is an archive of data where contacts, transactions, reports and records are stored. Without proper precautions, it is actually possible for someone else to take that data away from you and bring your business to a screeching halt; this is when we begin to see ransomware. This article will describe how it works, show potential consequences and explain what steps your business can take to stop ransomware altogether.
What is Ransomware and How Does it Work?
Ransomware is a type of malicious software that blocks access to a user’s stored files, or even the entire system, until a ransom is paid. This usually occurs in one of two ways: encrypting ransomware or locker ransomware.
Encrypting ransomware uses advanced algorithms to lock the user’s files and render them inaccessible until they are decrypted.
Locker ransomware on the other hand, is designed to make the entire operating system or hard drive inaccessible.
Although the tactics vary, both methods are based on the same core concept: force the victim to pay or they will lose everything.
What Are the Consequences of an Attack?
Ransomware can vary in severity from an isolated nuisance to a full scale attack that has the potential to destroy records, cripple entire infrastructures, and even cost a business thousands (even millions) of dollars. Keep in mind, the ransom is not the only financial impact you can expect.
- Being indefinitely locked out of your system leads to employees who are unable to work, causing both direct and indirect revenue losses
- Recovering files (if you have and offsite backup) may lead to enormous data usage and extra charges
- Repairing crashed equipment is extremely time consuming and costly
- Immediate security upgrades will be necessary to avoid follow-up attacks
- Your brand’s image can be destroyed if consumer data is compromised
- Stock prices can plummet if the public gets wind of the incident
How Can You Stop Ransomware?
Backup Your Data
Every company needs a backup no matter how good your security solution is. Even if an attack never hits you, that doesn’t mean your business can’t be affected. Whether it’s the electric company, network provider, financial institution, or even just the email client that gets hit, you’ll want to be prepared. Keep this in mind: insurance can replace your equipment, but without a backup solution, nothing is going to replace your data.
Firewalls Are Not Enough
Digital security has slowly become more important than physical security. Company assets extend far beyond the equipment and buildings they own; intangible data is now a large portion. Stored information is crucial to running a modern business; and firewalls are simply not enough. This is why cybersecurity solutions like Alert Logic exist to fill in the gaps and add extra layers of protection around your network.
Keep Your System Up to Date
Security updates happen for a reason: to patch vulnerabilities. If your network is not routinely updated, these vulnerabilities can be easily exploited. The longer a network is left at risk, the more likely it is for a ransomware attack to occur.
The best way to discover an attack before it happens is to have your network monitored 24 hours a day. Some malware is designed to lay dormant on devices as it spreads across the network. This will allow the attack to activate everywhere simultaneously, the moment the network is most vulnerable. With active monitoring, this activity can be spotted and corrected before it is too late.
Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Control
With the rise in popularity of BYOD policies, more and more companies are allowing unsecure devices to access their networks. Without proper precautions, these devices can quickly become a large security risk. Not only can a personal device be used to bring ransomware onto a network, it can be used to transport secure data off of it. A virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) can be used as a solution to mitigate this risk by creating fully personalized (virtual) desktops for each user while maintaining security and centralized management.
Watch Your Plugins
Plugins are often added as a security exception to allow various web communication. One of the most widely known ransomware attacks, Locky, was built around an exploit in the Adobe flash player. If left unmonitored, these security exceptions could allow countless amounts of data to pass unnoticed through a firewall.
Train Your Employees
User interaction with malicious content is the number one cause for an incident to occur. Ransomware is famous for its ability to use social engineering to deceive and manipulate people. Training your employees to identify and avoid fake sites and phishing attempts can help prevent this from happening.
Have a Plan
Don’t just assume your security is impenetrable and it can never happen to you or your business. If an attack does occur, containing it will be the number one priority. Malware is designed to spread like wildfire; and when it does start, you’ll want to have the tools ready to put it out. This may include an Intrusion Detection/Prevention System (IDPS) that provides security tools to control and monitor activity internally (activity a firewall would not prevent).
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